Water is a hot topic when discussing fitness. You should totally drink it! You should totally drink lots and lots of it! And, water is also a hot topic with environmentalists. You should totally conserve water. Conserve lots and lots of water. These two ideas seem to contradict each other, but today I’m going to discuss exactly how and why you should drink water, get fit, and save the earth.
The health benefits of water are astounding. Looking for just one little meme to display a fraction of the positive effects of water resulted in my skimming the internet for an hour. We don’t have that kind of time. But not many people will dispute the good that water can do the body. Unless they’re trying to be a smart-ass.
But there ARE some health risks to our water drinking. More than that, there are detrimental effects on the environment due to our water drinking in the United States as well. The risks come not from the actual water we are consuming, but how we are consuming it.
For years, we’ve been warned about the dangers of chemicals in our tap water. But today, tap water is more strictly regulated than bottled water. And with completely affordable filters like Brita and Pur, even if you are worried about contaminants, there are affordable options. But bottled water is a plague on our planet that has huge impact on the environment, and even our health, yet we completely ignore it.
17,000,000 barrels of oil are used to create water bottles for US consumption each year. That’s enough to fuel 1,000,000 cars in the same amount of time. Combine that with the amount of energy used for pumping, processing, transporting, and refrigerating bottled water, and it adds up to 54,000,000 barrels (that’s not gallons, that’s barrels). Essentially, to make one bottle of water, approximately 3 bottles of water were used. This is why your bottle of water costs more than gasoline.
What’s more frustrating to me, though, is what happens to the bottles after we consume the water. Water bottles are the number one most recyclable substance we make, and yet 80% of water bottles get thrown into the garbage and end up in landfills. Those that don’t make it to the landfill can be found floating in what is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where the bottles slowly, over the course of decades, break-down into smaller and smaller pieces, being eaten by sea life and contaminating the food supply.
Drinking out of plastic bottles has some health risks too. Bisphenol A is a chemical that has been linked to brain and hormonal defects as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Most reusable water bottles don’t use BPA, but can leach other chemicals, especially if the bottle is heated in some way. One time use water bottles are not designed to be reused, and pose some not-so-fun risks if you ignore that fact. They are more difficult to clean than sport bottles, so bacteria and germs can build up pretty quickly.
There are 3 R’s in conservation. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. There’s a reason for this order. The number one way to conserve resources is to reduce the use of resources. The least effective, but still better than nothing is Recycling. So, if you are in dire straits and you need some water, grab a bottle, but make sure you recycle the bottle. But if you can help it, prevent the need for recycling by bringing your own reusable bottle and reduce the amount of waste in the first place.
When I visited home in South Carolina, I received a rude awakening as to the difference in culture between the Northwest and Southeast. When we went out to eat, I was asked what I wanted to drink. I said I was fine with my own water, and showed her my aluminum bottle that I had brought with me that day. But, that wasn’t allowed in the restaurant. I was “forced” to use their plastic, one-use cups for water. Well, did they at least recycle those water cups? Oh, no. So, by eating at that establishment, I was supporting their wasteful and unhealthy habits. I was disgusted.
But now I’m home and I carry with me wherever I go a couple of water containers. I’ve built a healthy habit of drinking about 100-120 ounces every day because I have water accessible to me at all times. But I think my mind is just as satisfied knowing that my healthy habit isn’t affecting the environment negatively. I am drinking for fitness and conservation, the whole kit’n’caboodle of EarthFit.